Israel elected to leadership of UN committee on “Decolonization”

Palestinians examine the ruins of buildings demolished by Israeli occupation forces in eastern Jerusalem, 2 June. Saeed Qaq APA images

Just when it appeared that the United Nations could not be more ineffective in protecting Palestinian rights and holding Israel accountable for violating them, here comes the news that Israel has been elected as vice-chair of the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee – which deals among other things with matters related to Palestinian refugees.

According to UN minutes, the representative of Israel, the world’s last settler-colonial power, received 74 votes for the post, despite strong opposition from the Arab Group of UN member states.

Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Arab states, described Israel as a “State that violated the United Nations Charter and international law. Because its track record was rife with murder and its occupation had lasted more than 66 years, Israel was not qualified to preside over questions pertaining to Palestinian refugees, peacekeeping and the investigation of its own illegal practices.”

The Arab states had demanded a recorded vote, an unusual step, prompting objections from the ambassador of the United Kingdom which is a member of the Group of Western European and Other States that nominated Israel.

Canada took the opportunity to express its “unflinching support for Israel” and the United States said it “unequivocally supported Israel’s election.”

Saudi Arabia – whose own membership of the UN Human Rights Council has drawn much criticism – said that Israel’s election was “the moral equivalent of placing the apartheid regime of South Africa in charge of a committee to end racism.”

Theater of the absurd

Israel thanked its supporters, but perhaps its actions spoke louder than words. While this theater of the absurd was playing out in New York, Israeli occupation forces stepped up demolitions of Palestinian homes to make way for colonial settlements.

Its election comes just weeks after Israel announced yet another massive expansion of illegal colonies in the occupied West Bank.

On Wednesday alone, Israeli demolitions left seven Palestinian families homeless in the West Bank.

And take a look at the photostory by Silvia Boarini documenting Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Bedouins in the southern Naqab (“Negev”) region of present-day Israel.

These latest measures of ethnic cleansing come amid Israel’s assault on West Bank cities over the past week, allegedly in search of three missing colonial settlers. Israel has so far abducted more than 300 Palestinians, raided 750 homes as well as dozens of charities and the Birzeit University campus.

If there were a UN Committee on How to Occupy and Colonize, Israel would indeed be the best candidate to lead it.

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Although this article is great, I think it is a dangerous mistake to say Israel is " the world’s last settler-colonial power". Please, do not exceptionalize our struggle. The US, Australia, Canada, Australia, and South Africa are all existing settler-colonial powers that continue to settle and colonize indigenous land even today.

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Tibet is another obvious example - the Chinese government has a policy of settling the region with Han Chinese while simultaneously waging a brutal repressive campaign to suppress Tibetan culture and deny political rights to Tibetans.

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The Chinese at least regard the Tibetans as fellow human beings, and as fellow Chinese.
The zionists regard the native Palestinians as "subhuman vermin", and "an inferior race".
A Tibetan has the option of renouncing his or her culture and heritage, and accepting Chinese citizenship.
A Palestinian has no such option.

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The US, Australia etc certainly have settler-colonial roots, but to suggest as 'Munir' does that their practice today, vis a vis their indigenous populations, bears any resemblance to Israeli colonization and apartheid is utter nonsense and only serves to trivialise the triple Palestinian whammy of ethnic cleansing and exile (1948/1967), entrenched inequality (Palestinian Israelis), and military occupation (1967-2014).

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There iss till ongoing settler colonial violence in the US - but it takes less explicit forms (follow Keystine pipieline politics in the Dakotas). But it is important to remember that in settler colonial societies that indigenous people are still there and are still fighting for rights, not lost to history or in the past. I say this as someone who is very very aware of what present Palestine is like. I just think it is important to remember that settler colonial societies strive to "forget" the past, while forgetting that they continue to colonize.

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Sure, but we're not talking about the past. Whatever the level of economic disadvantage or racism suffered by native Americans today - an obvious and deplorable legacy of European settler-colonialism and genocide in North America - you still do not have the full-blown apartheid experienced by native Palestinians since 1948. That is a whole new ball game. If there's one piece of current US legislation, apartheid being racism enshrined in law, that discriminates between indigenous and non-indigenous Americans please let us know about it.

I hasten to add that this is not in any way to marginalise the very real plight of native Americans, but simply a recognition that there is a qualitative difference (stemming from a raft of current apartheid legislation) between what has been going on in Palestine since 1948 and the experience of indigenous peoples in other settler-colonial states, however bitter.

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It's easy to bash the UN and to misunderstand procedure there. After 40 years of NGO lobbying, I get it. Israel's EXISTENCE is a problem for work in the UN, but so is the USA, much worse. However, they are all there. Israel was elected to the vice-chair position of the Decolonization Committee, a notably powerless position and cannot be described as "leadership," and for a limited time. On a rotating basis--UN-defined regions (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, West) select who they want to put up. Israel is in the western group, and it's that group's turn for the position, and the western group (western Europe, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel) put Israel up. Within the groups, they usually rotate, and it was Israel's turn. (The next president of the General Assembly, 2014-2015, is from Uganda despite horrors of the present government), but it's that country's turn within the Africa group and the African group's turn at the presidency.

http://www.un.org/depts/DGACM/...

George Soros and many other deep-pocketed liberals want to reduce UN membership to "democracies," and kick out all the other countries, as if states are frozen in a political state. Soros might very well be willing to oust Israel. But, it's still a bad idea.

If Palestinians and allies (which I certainly am, but leadership has to come from Palestinians) wish to mount a huge movement as the ANC did with South Africa, to oust Israel from the General Assembly (not the UN per se, but withdrawing their right to vote in the GA or any subsidiary bodies, such as the Human Rights Council), they should do so, and not attack the UN system for following its procedure. It was a very different time in the 1970s, when the African states were militant and had the swing vote in the UN GA. The Arab and Muslim states don't have a swing vote and it is doubtful that they would get behind such a movement to lead from within the UN, but they might.

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I would very much like to believe in the comments of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

How many more times (O God) will Israel be able to absent itself from meetings
because they are biased etc?

I think that Israel should be expelled from participation in the UN or at
least put on probation. The US and other powers with imperial traditions
feel it seems that everyone is welcome whether they continue to oppress,
murder, disposses etc. I am not as expert in international lawlessness
and cannot assess what benefits would be achieved. Would it be
"anti-Semitic" to expell Israel for murdering children?

I am somewhat mollified that the Committee on Palestinian Inalienable
Rights again and again condemns Israel for its behavior. See most
recently GA/PAL/1330 of June 4, 2014 (available in a "press releases"
of June 4, General Assembly webbsite).

----Peter Loeb, Boston,MA USA

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Peter, I totally agree with you that Israel should be expelled from the UN. They should never have had membership in the first place, given their long list of war crimes, their utter disregard for international law and their arrogant and contemptuous attitude to the UN, an organisation which, to my mind however, has long since lost all credibility and honour as a result of its double standards,notably on the question of Israel.

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concerns your statement: Israel was elected to the vice-chair position of the UN Decolonisation Committee, a notably powerless position that cannot be described as leadership. What is the point of electing whoever or whatever to a "notably powerless position"? What a trivial activity, a completely pointless waste of time and money. It really beggars belief!

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This is just another example of how the UN fails to live up to its mandate. It just saddens me that the West continues to fail to see the crimes of Israel.

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I agree wholeheartedly with Munir. Calling Israel the last settler colonial state is not only factually incorrect, but also minimizes the struggles of people working against settler colonialism in places like the US and limits opportunities for meaningful solidarity.

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And what is being done about it? Qatar and Saudi Arabia's whinging AFTER the fact is inconsequential. Where are the online campaigns? The petitions? The outcry? Someone needs to launch a response to this. The abduction of 3 Israeli teens fueled a massive online campaign- why hasn't the wrongful arrest of nearly 300 Palestinians who had nothing to do with their abduction?

I suggest starting a Twitter campaign or a petition.

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The de facto borders of Israel are illegal under international law (of the UN and its instruments). Which is why no one is working harder than zionists to bring down the UN. Wouldn't it be wiser to criticize each time the specific countries that undermine the UN spirit, rather than to undermine the UN itself?

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As a matter of clarification, the author is confusing the U.N. committees.The issue relates to the U.N.Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) which is one of the 6 committees of the Whole of the General Assembly. This is not the Special Committee on Decolonization (also know as the Committee of 24) which is a much smaller committee that reports to the Fourth Committee.

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How can acountry that violates so many UN resolutions, even be considered for this kind of position? It was a laughing stock before this move, now it's just another pile of crap, poluting the planet.

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"Israel has been elected as vice-chair of the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee"

Is this a joke? How sick!

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.